Egyptian authorities rounded up more than 1,000 Islamists as the Muslim Brotherhood leadership defiantly called a week of nationwide protests starting on Saturday after a day of carnage.
After Friday’s bloodshed in which more than 100 people died in clashes that pushed Egypt ever closer to anarchy, tensions were high with supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in a Cairo mosque where bodies had been taken during the violence, while security forces were stationed outside.
The interior ministry said that 1,004 Muslim Brotherhood “elements” had been arrested, accusing members of Mursi’s movement of committing acts of terrorism during the clashes, which took the death toll to 700 since Wednesday.
Violence erupted across Egypt after the Brotherhood, which has deep roots in the provinces, called for a “Day of Rage.” Roughly 50 people died in Cairo and more than 20 in the country’s second city, Alexandria, security sources said.
Automatic gunfire echoed around the capital throughout Friday afternoon, army helicopters swooped over the roof tops and at least one office block was set ablaze, lighting up the night sky long after the violence had subsided.
The Brotherhood announced a series of daily rallies over the next six days, starting on Saturday.
“We will not leave the squares. And we will not be silent over our rights, ever,” said Cairo resident Abdullah Abdul Fattah, adding that he was not a Brotherhood voter.
“We are here because of our brothers who died,” he said.
An interim cabinet, installed by the army after it removed Mursi during rallies against his often chaotic rule, has refused to back down. It has authorized police to use live ammunition to defend themselves and state installations.
After weeks of futile, political mediation, police moved on Wednesday to clear two Brotherhood protest sit-ins in Cairo. Almost 600 people, most of them Islamists, were killed in the mayhem. With no compromise in sight, the most populous Arab nation looks increasingly polarized and angry.
The government said in a statement it was confronting the “Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist plan.”
Undermining Brotherhood pledges of peaceful resistance, armed men were seen firing from the ranks of pro-Mursi supporters in Cairo on Friday. A security official said at least 24 policemen had died over the past 24 hours, and 15 police stations attacked.
Witnesses also said Mursi backers had ransacked a Catholic church and set fire to an Anglican church in the city of Malawi. The Brotherhood, which has been accused of inciting anti-Christian sentiment, denies targeting churches.